By Rona Rothenberg, FAIA – 2022 AIA California President
Every one of us has benefitted in some way from the people who provided professional and personal guidance to us in our career paths-at home, in our educational journeys, and through sports, volunteer work and any other way in which you developed yourself as a professional and a leader in the industry. From early work in modest internship level positions through responsible technical and management assignments, there are almost unlimited deliberate and also unintentional opportunities to both give and take to guide and support your own cohort, those ahead of you and others coming into the pipeline. This is the investment we make when we “pay it forward” in our profession.
Examples of model mentorship and leadership are abundant if not always fully acknowledged. This is the mission of AIA California’s Academy of Emerging Professionals and the AIA National Center for Emerging Professionals.
As reflected in AIA California’s Strategic Plan, the mission of the Academy of Emerging Professionals at the state level is to provide career support and resources for professionals from students and those entering the profession through 10 years post licensure. Led capably by Mandy Freeland, AIA as the 2022-2023 VP-AEP with dedication and inspired goals and objectives, the Academy is comprised of a broad diversity of graduates across backgrounds, generations, educational and career paths.
To examine and advance their mission, vision and goals, statewide AEP leadership of AIACA and members of the chapter liaisons convened this July for an AEP Summit in Los Angeles.
Themed “Bridge the Gap” and attended by members of the Academy, fellow professionals, with Nicki Dennis-Stephens, Hon. AIA AIACA Executive Vice President and many other leading senior professionals from around the state who are passionate about growing the professional pipelines in architecture.
The Summit focused on skills and team-building through a facilitated forum including the types of collaborative, team-building group and breakout sessions which characterized well run teams, programs and projects in our work settings. With a lens to understanding what each person needs personally and professionally, the Summit included interactive exercises to emphasize connecting and sharing; listening skills; and teaming. They also engaged in crucial conversations on such topics as: compensation and potential to advance challenges to testing and licensure; setting personal and professional boundaries at work; engaging beyond work; and how to provide needed for support through and beyond the professional entry years.
The Summit concluded with stated outcomes consistent with AEP national and statewide goals: Development of statewide and chapter-based tools to support emerging and future generations of professionals; continued engagement with educators to update study courses and paths; and deep engagement with firm leaders across practices to insure resilient and lasting opportunities.
Many other programs to grow future architects and careers for architects exist in California and around the country. With some modest initial, but ongoing, research which is by no means conclusive, we have been able to establish that across the state components and many local chapters there are numerous programs for leadership training, AEP complementary groups to the National AIA Center for Emerging Professionals program, and scores of mentorship programs available from the state components, in local firms and in many AIA chapters in California, the highly successful NOMA Ace Program and the AIA College of Fellows Nexus program, now in its second year, in which I am proudly participating as a mentor of a young architectural graduate from Chicago working in Idaho.
As I visited recently with my three darling grandchildren, I was reminded of the critical importance of growing future generations through investment and unselfish hard work. This is the purpose of the AEP. I am always inspired by the hopeful energy of emerging professionals of all ages, paths and aspirations. I hope you are too! I encourage you to get involved if you haven’t already as a way to “pass the proverbial hardhat” to the next generations in the pipeline of successful careers for architectural graduates, aspiring architects and licensed professionals at every career milestone.